Is there a cost to indecision?

22 Feb

Today I contemplated the issue of “indecision.” One of the comments I got most often from my secretaries, and this was when I was sitting in positions of power, was that before I left for the day, my in tray was cleared, my inbox was cleared and every decision that was needed had been made. It is something I take for granted that every body does. Not true, not true at all.

Today I met 5 people and I asked all 5 the same question, is your boss decisive or indecisive. All 5, without betting an eyelid said indecisive. I was stunned. I probed further and asked, what affect does your boss’s indecisiveness have on you. While they each said it in different words, my paraphrase of it was “it took the wind out of their sails.”

One of the 5 is a CEO of a PLC and his boss is his BOARD. It took so much wind out of his sail that he QUIT. Another is a Director in a global MNC, he too QUIT. Both are quite prominent characters who often are in the papers for the right reasons.

Now if indecision at the top can demotivate a CEO and Director to the point they quit, can you imagine the impact of indecision within an organization onto the general workforce? How much frustration, bottlenecking and loss of productivity does it causes?

Why are bosses, managers indecisive? I attribute it to one of two factors:

Factor 1: Wanting to make the most correct decision.

Factor 2: Unsure of the basis to make a decision.

Factor 1 is the manager who sits on decisions hoping that over time, it will crystalize and the correct answer will emerge. Like wine, the longer a decision is aged, the better it becomes. Finally a dateline comes up, and the decision has to be made and it is the pressure of the dateline that forces the decision.

Factor 2 has to do with a lack of clarity in terms of business, processes and accountabilities. A decision has to be made, but who should make it, who should give inputs to it, who will it affect? On what basis do I make this decision? In the end it just sits and waits and becomes like factor 1 where the dateline forces the decision.

It is for this reason that organizations need policy, business and process frameworks that are absolutely clear so that all decision can be weighted and traded-off against the framework. Over time I have come to realize that most all decision have a 50-50 chance of being correct, because to decide you need foresight and to evaluate the correctness of a decision we use hindsight.

So about 9 years ago I can to the conclusion that it is far cheaper to make a wrong decision and correct it than to make no decision and hold the entire organization up.

So my friends, if you currently sit on decision, my advise is just decide and once you do it you will feel a sense of relief running throught the organization. But never defend a bad decision. If your betting average is even just 50-50, trust me, you are doing well…..


Posted by on February 22, 2007 in Business


6 responses to “Is there a cost to indecision?

  1. noone

    February 23, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    Is there as cost to indecision? The answer is yes… it even more costly than making wrong decision. The impact is long term and the entire system is affected. The 2 factors should not exist in CEO’s agenda.

    What is the best way to push this people?? Should we eliminate them from the system? 🙂

  2. whome

    February 23, 2007 at 8:38 pm

    Noone, i read your comment with much interest. I think there are 3 steps to take:

    a. very few people realize that they are indecisive. likewise very few people realise they have bad breath or body odour …. so they need to be given feedback to become aware.

    b. indecisiveness also can be part of organization culture bcoz the boss / board wants to decide everything… if so then boss /board must be aware of the negative impact he is having on the organization

    having been made aware, if no change in behaviour then have to change person….but who is going to give feedback and who is going to change the people?

  3. Noone

    February 24, 2007 at 12:54 am

    whome, you certainly have your points right but i think it is timely for us to just be direct . your point b really reflect the true picture in most of organization.. they want to decide on everthing but nothing happen and at the end who will suffer or become the victim? Is it the boss himself or the organization or the employee? Who will pay the price bcoz of this culture.

    We need to change and be more aggresive, proactive or bold enough to make quick decision. I believe only a risk-taker can survive and succeed. What do you think?? 🙂

  4. Alsaid

    February 27, 2007 at 8:35 pm

    If you are frequently Indecisive, people cannot have confidence in you as a leader. Even though is good not to rush before making decision but not all the time. I read a book called “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” written by Malcolm Gladwell, is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant, in the blink of an eye. How do we make decisions — good and bad — and why are some people so much better at it than others? Utilizing case studies as diverse as speed dating and pop music, reveals that what we think of as decisions made in the blink of an eye are much more complicated than assumed. Drawing on cutting-edge neuroscience and psychology, he shows how the difference between good decision-making and bad has nothing to do with how much information we can process quickly, but on the few particular details on which we focus.

    Rapid cognition is the sort of snap decision-making performed without thinking, about how one is thinking, faster and often more correctly than the logical part of the brain can manage.

    So… people, why be indecisive? You have made your decision within 2 seconds, after looking at the candidate to select for a position or choosing a wife as a life partner. You thought that by taking your time, you will make a better or a good decision but without realizing it, YOU have made your decision, 2 seconds decision.

    Chance favors only the prepared mind. – Louis Pasteur


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: